U.S. airlines expected to trim capacity in Q4: ATA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - (Reuters) - U.S. airlines are expected to cut the number of seats for sale by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the year-ago period, the Air Transport Association trade group said on Wednesday.

Bookings at the carriers are "holding their own" midway through the third quarter, and a sluggish economy is not materially weakening demand, ATA chief economist John Heimlich told reporters.

"Things are better and holding up reasonably well," Heimlich said. The forecast for airline capacity is based on schedules from carriers.

U.S. airlines have been battered in recent years by a weak global economy that has hobbled travel demand. Carriers have managed the downturn with capacity cuts and mergers, such as the 2010 marriage of United Airlines and Continental Airlines to form United Continental Holdings Inc <UAL.N>.

(Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)